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ROUGH CUTS: The solution is even a bigger problem

Indeed there is a real need to understand why the more disadvantaged among us Filipinos are complaining of what they claim is the failure of the government to provide them the much needed assistance in this very difficult time of the health pandemic in the country.

We mean more specifically those who are supposed to be legitimate beneficiaries of the Social Amelioration Program (SAP) the government is implementing to help the most affected sector of the country as a consequence of the deadly Coronavirus Disease 2019 (CoViD 19).

A sizable number from this sector are complaining that during the release of the first tranche they were unable to receive the financial assistance despite having met all the qualifications of a legitimate beneficiary. The cash assistance ranges from P6,000 to P8000 depending on where the beneficiaries live and the quarantine category put in place.

The more frustrating situation was the allegation of those left out in the giving of the SAP that their names were included in the list of beneficiaries and when the releasing of the cash came their names could not anymore be found.
Many cried out aloud in self-pity and in anger. What with the time and money they spent in procuring the documentary requirements; the money that they could have spent to buy something that could help put food – even if measly — in their all too often empty stomachs.

Yes, they cried in anger because they discovered that their names were substituted with names of people known close to the barangay officials and mostly much better off in life than they (the complaining citizens) are.

We however, would admit that during that time we had reservations in taking the complaints hook, line and sinker. We believed then that the messy situation attendant to the release of the first tranche of the SAP was some kind of “birth pains” that normally accompany the implementation of projects that involve cash assistance with so huge a number of recipients.

We took the problem as a learning platform for the improvement of the subsequent processes for the succeeding tranche of financial assistance under the SAP.

But lo and regrets! Instead of having improvements in the processes, it seems the undesirable experiences in the previous release of the financial assistance were negated. What is adopted as new modality in releasing the cash aid under the second tranche is getting even messier and had caused additional suffering to the beneficiaries.

And believe you us; the beneficiaries have to endure the risk of exposure to the heat and coolness of the weather; spend even more time and money from their long empty pockets. They have to get out of their home quarantine twice or even more. First they have to go to the barangays to get documents that will establish their identity as SAP beneficiary. So, they have to unnecessarily be exposed to closer contact with other people who could be carriers of the deadly virus.

It’s not only that; if the beneficiary lives outside of the barangay proper where the seat of the lowest local governance unit is located, then they either walk the distance whatever the weather may be, or they take a “habal-habal” ride which is expensive in the far-flung areas.

Of course after getting the required identifying documents they have to go to the nearest authorized remittance establishments to get their cash assistance. From what we have been told by not a few beneficiaries, some – if not all – remittance centers are imposing a fixed number of SAP beneficiaries to be entertained in a day. The reason cited is of course understandable. The centers have to attend the needs of other customers whose transactions are not SAP-related.

That was why our heart bled last Wednesday when we personally observed the situation of the SAP beneficiaries hoping to get their cash aid from a remittance firm at Catalunan Grande. We were certain many of them came from the remotest villages of the city’s largest barangay in the first district.

When we passed by the area at about 10 in the morning the line of beneficiaries starting from the façade of the remittance center extended up to about seventy meters. And we saw that there was merely a semblance of social distancing compliance.

Lucky were those who brought with them umbrellas and other heat shielding paraphernalia. We assumed that they were able to brave the heat of the sun that was seemingly at hell-hot level that day.

After completing our transactions at downtown last Wednesday, we dropped by at our urban residence also in Catalunan Grande. On our way home to our barangay we took the same route. It was roughly 3:30 in the afternoon and the heat of the sun was still raging. Upon passing the remittance center that was releasing the SAP, the line of hopeful beneficiaries was still there although not as long as it was in the morning.

We slowed down to observe and we have noted that many of those still in the line looked emaciated and haggard. For who will not after getting roasted by the blistering sun for hours?

We assume that the only consolation that the beneficiaries may have got is if all of them who lined up and suffered the heat stroke-inducing atmosphere that whole Wednesday, got their money at the end of the day.
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